Saturday, October 23, 2021
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
A single-location setting that's been kicking around for a bit but that got brought off the back burner after being reminded of Dan's Great Screaming Hell. With a few tweaks to big picture assumptions, this material is equally applicable to something closer to MOSH's implied setting.
TEN THOUSAND EMPTY TOMBS
WORLDBUILDING WITH ITEM LISTS
- Logic module; a metal box the size of a small dishwasher currently mounted to the interior of a laser steamer and connected to the spacecraft's system with optical cables.
- Diploma (natural philosophy); even machine minds need teaching; they're manufactured by remnant automated systems that don't provide training data.
- A trusty scribe (and a pair of hands for somebody without them); he's fourteen and just really excited to be here.
- Their scribe's belongings; that's just how apprenticeship goes kid.
- Wicker basket full of knickknacks (their scribe is sometimes asked to hold each item up to the camera).
- The corpse of a machine; methodically directed for spare parts at The Pilot's direction.
- Several treatises on orbital mechanics, obscure mathematics, and optics.
- The ship's manifest; wax seal from the customs office at their last port of call (fake).
- A small bag of mysterious wire sculptures recovered from a delve; no obvious paranatural effects but feel dangerous.
- Clothes -- a cloth cover for their logic module embroidered with an agricultural motif.
- A hold full of improvised heat seekers -- these cost a fortune when you don't make them yourself.
- A handcart (used by their scribe to move them under gravity).
- A copper idol (music deity)
- Cermet battle axe (chipped); wrapped in machineskin. The butt is also a crowbar.
- Parrying dagger with a broad double quillion and compressed gas charge; many machine remnants enforce ancient gun control laws for inexplicable reasons.
- Stick bomb; it's just a shaped charge attached to the end of a collapsible metal pole. Perfect for killing machines or making big holes in thin walls.
- Vacsuit in a heavy duffel bag stowed in a spare corner; embroidered with heraldry of the Cosmonauts' Guild.
- 100m of silk rope; it's hard to beat natural fiber for some applications.
- Wooden bead necklace; carved in the shape of gruesome tomb guardian spirits; good luck for grave robbers.
- A half-eaten flatbread stuffed with precious bloodfruit (tastes just like real meat) and less precious rice and spirulina algae. Very spicy; microgravity does a number on the tastebuds.
- Hacksaw (blade slightly bent).
- Oracle bones.
- Checkbook (never used).
- Pulp paper sketchbook and pressurized pen; beautiful drawings, comprehensive dream journal (mostly nightmares), and foul language in the margins.
- Pet arthropod (pale, slightly translucent); tolerates vacuum for extended periods. Surprisingly clever.
- Heavenly Orb; a glassy object that provides a direct line to the insane machine/gods that run the laser infrastructure.
- Copper ritual knife; the gods must sometimes be appeased with blood.
- Heavy sleeping bag with straps for microgravity (down filling).
- Slide rule (for astrological calculations).
- Bag with several strings of bead money engraved with the seal of a minor banking house (tungsten).
- Block of very expensive black tea in a beautiful wooden box.
- High-proof spirits distilled from wood pulp and agricultural waste (bottle mostly empty).
- Soldering iron with lots of solder and several spare batteries.
- Electric water pipe (marijuana).
- Makeup kit and high-quality mirror made from a machine's laser weapon.
- Religious text; copied incantations recorded from the machine/gods.
- Child's storybook; inside signed with best wishes.
- Fruit preserves (blackberry) and flatbread.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
RICHES IN IRON
WHO'S VISITING THIS JUMP?:
- An android cult come to worship the Slipseed; childlike bodies and brilliant white robes. They haven't bothered with getting accommodation and wander around in the hard vacuum.
- Two PANSEC Fleet Security Division frigates and horde of ultraviolent crayon eaters; luckily they're only here for one jump. In the meantime the number of bar fights has tripled.
- A massive Jump-2 colony ship; hitching a ride before making several shorter hops into unknown space.
- Refugees from a local war; barely able to afford oxygen and food.
- A corporate wizard; everyone seems to keep a wide berth.
- A freighter full of pirated idol pop cassettes operated by the grimmest, most violent smugglers you've ever met.
- A professional sports team traveling for a multi-year string of exhibition games.
- Stratmeyer Syndicate goons.
- A small asteroid manhandled into into Riches In Iron's central volume; not clear why anyone would go to all that trouble. It's just floating there.
- A new greenhouse full of real coffee plants! Hopefully its here to stay.
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
I've talked about jump cyclers before. Very sensible, nice ways to travel without just getting in the cryopod and waiting. But they just aren't weird enough for my meatpunk default setting. And I've also been stewing on approaching default FTL a bit differently than Mothership's implied setting does and making it (1) more difficult and (2) more interesting for parties that don't have a starship.
To that end (with all credit to all the science fiction authors who have done living spacecraft) here we go:
1d6 RUMORS ABOUT SLIPSEEDS
- Slipseeds cultivate technological civilizations like we cultivate yeast: humanity is the most efficient synthesis pathway for exotic elements and antimatter. (Not implausible)
- Slipseeds feed on experiences of sentient creatures and tolerate the indignities of carrying their baggage in exchange. (Not implausible)
- Slipseeds are the physical ancestors of the Sleepers. (Doubtful)
- Slipseeds are really human time travelers, shepherding humanity into a safe future in which it is not consumed by the infinite hunger of the Gaunt. (Doubtful)
- Slipseeds have secret deals with corporate executives and the Exile States and are far more talkative than they appear. (Absurd)
- Slipseeds are the non-sentient tools of another species designed to suppress advancements in hyperspace technology, (Not implausible)
Sunday, October 3, 2021
To run the skills as patches method, you need some tables: here's a start
TEAMSTER BACKGROUNDS (d10 or pick)
- Mechanic (vehicles or aircraft)
- Reactor Tech
- Life Support Tech
- General Contractor
- Blue Collar Criminal
- Agricultural Worker
- Factory Worker
- Professional soldier
- Corporate security
- Warrant Officer (roll on Teamster table)
- Powerpoint Jockey
- Demolitions Specialist
- Military (roll on Marine table)
- Labor (roll on Teamster table)
- Jump Drive Specialist
- MD (pick a specialty -- i.e. virologist, trauma surgeon, psychiatrist)
- Xenobiologist (pick a specialty)
- Exotic Physicist
- Computer Scientist
- Starship Pilot
- Forensic Accountant
50 BACKGROUNDS AND FAILED CAREERS:
- Criminal: Burglar or Thief
- Criminal: Drug Offenses
- Criminal: Violent
- Criminal: White Collar
- Penal Colonist
- Bachelor of Arts
- Bachelor of Science
- Colonial Militia (Reserve)
- Park Ranger
- Sex Worker
- Customer Service Employee
- Indentured Employee
- Flash Clone
- Mechanic (Hobbyist, pick specialty)
- Peaked in High School
- Athlete (Amateur)
- Athlete (Professional)
- Union Representative
- Middle Manager
- IT Professional
- Factory Worker
- Partied So Hard You Forgot
- Armchair Investor
- Import/Export Business
- Underworld Fixer
- Event Promoter
- Religious Authority Figure
I've been playing a bit of LANCER and have really enjoyed embracing the effects of relativistic slower-than-light travel. And I tend to lean on Larry Niven's Known Space stories for inspiration. But what started out as a case for STL-only MoSh has turned into a another list post. So here are some alternatives to the standard jump drive. Credit to the relevant fiction where it's due.
d10 WAYS PEOPLE TRAVEL THE STARS INSTEAD OF JUMP DRIVES
- They don't. But digital uploading is permitted, uploaded minds may travel relativisticly on tiny starmoth-sized lightsail probes propelled by lasers. It's too hard to transmit the amount of data in a human mind on a comms laser.
- STL only (low time-dilation) on a highway of fusion pellets; interstellar space travel is a managed utility like train travel if you also spent years on a train. Lifespans are long enough and cryopods are good enough that traveling STL is acceptable to anyone who doesn't mind leaving their old world behind.
- STL only (very high high time dilation); it's possible to launch a ship into hyperspace to easily travel at an arbitrary speed but Very Bad Things happen to ships that exceed the speed of light. To the people in the ship's reference frame time passes hundreds of times faster. But what takes subjective minutes takes years in the rest reference frame.
- STL only (high time dilation); magical asteroid-sized aliens that can manipulate gravity make a living transporting other species and allow humans to hitch a ride. Thanks Steven Baxter.
- FTL (realspace); magical asteroid-sized aliens that can manipulate gravity and exotic matter are the only source of warp drive technology.
- FTL (hyperspace); as standard MoSh but it takes less time in realspace to get somewhere than it does in hyperspace. This obviously benefits corporations shipping things and makes the life of a typical spacer even more miserable.
- FTL (wormholes); established gates allow FTL travel. Using wormholes as a time machine will destroy the wormholes (a tactic used by saboteurs and warring polities).
- FTL (hyperspace); hyperspace is really hell and you need to sign an actual contract with the entities that reside there before you jump
- Pseudo FTL (instant jump); you're traveling between alternate universes; often the only humans in a given universe are hanging around the jump point. Credit to Diaspora (in some games anyway).
- FTL (instant jump); psychic navigators teleport ships around. If they rely on drugs to do this, pour one out for Frank Herbert.
Saturday, October 2, 2021
This post is an effort to present my collection of combat sleeves in a more concise and uniform way. These rules assume that you're using Quadra's PC hits rules (https://www.traaa.sh/mothership-house-rules). I also suggest rolling on the critical hit table of your choice whenever a PC loses a hit with the exceptions noted below.
Robotic sleeves must be repaired and don't heal (as androids at my own table); chimeras gain advantage on their body saves when resting; other sleeves heal as regular players.
Many combat sleeves add an extra hit. If this hit is marked with an asterisk, losing it does not force a roll on the critical hit table.
On reseleeve make a SANITY and BODY save. If either is a critical failure you die. Otherwise you incur substantial medical expenses equal to 10% of the cost of the sleeve. Each time you resleeve increase your minimum stress by 1. This stress is eliminated if you return to your original body or merge with a chimera sleeve.
If you are in an unusual body or a substandard chrome sleeve you must roll sanity each week or month. On a failure, you panic at an inopportune time.
If you are implanted in a chimera, you may choose to ignore the results of the panic table but must make a SANITY save and take 2 STRESS. After the first failed save all subsequent saves are at disadvantage. After two failed saves, you have merged irreparably with the chimera. Your next death will be permanent
The market-leading manufacturer of chimera sleeves. Well-deserved reputation for rigorous QA testing and stable host temperaments. The secret to smooth host-brain integration is Gaunt Worm extract. Brain is stored in the armored chest cavity in all Horizon sleeves.
It doesn't look anything like a werewolf but the host is a social pack predator by nature. Elaphantine skin, hunched posture, massive limbs, and a whiplike tail. Inexperienced operators wear it like powered armor. Veterans embrace the host's instincts.
Armor: +4 (costs 1 cybernetic slot and stacks)
Abilities: IR vision and phased array radar (as IR goggles and bioscanner) -- 1 cybernetic slot; claws and teeth 4d10
Designed for tight spaces and hard vacuum. Unsettling hypermobile limbs and razor-sharp claws. Can fit through anything the size of its head. A roughly human silhouette but elongated.
Abilities: IR vision and phased array radar (as IR goggles and bioscanner) -- 1 cybernetic slot; claws 2d10; fits into all spaces wider than a human head, rated for 30 minutes in hard vacuum (consumes 50% of a human's oxygen), climbs as fast as it walks.
PRU WEREWOLF (60mcr):
Manufactured especially for corporations with deep pockets for operations that call for contact with the paranormal including the sleeve's namesake: Rhombus' legendary PRU kill teams. You can't afford it. Any resemblance to an Alpha Gaunt is purely coincidental (also, why do you know what an Alpha Gaunt is anyway?).
Armor: +4 (costs 1 cybernetic slot and stacks)
Abilities: IR vision and phased array radar (as IR goggles and bioscanner) -- 1 cybernetic slot; claws 5d10; redwire implant (no stress from violent actions carried out by you or allies); limited telekinesis (claw attacks at range), and a really nasty scream.
Rugged, efficient, and affordable chrome. Spare parts are available anywhere. Financing is accessible to the masses and most purchases include a free gift and fully-insured body storage.
Named for the folkloric figure; a headless chrome sleeve. Lightweight, compressible, and durable.
Strength: 35 (fixed)
Speed: 30 (fixed)
Body: 40 (fixed)
Armor: 45 (fixed, stacks with body armor)
Abilities: Integrated IR, Integrated Bodycam, Internal oxygen for brain (lasts 48 hours per tank)
A hulking sleeve powered by a miniature nuclear reactor.
Strength: 60 (fixed, advantage on checks)
Speed: 25 (fixed)
Armor: 60 (fixed, doesn't stack)
Abilities: Integrated IR, Integrated Bodycam, Internal oxygen for brain (lasts 48 hours per tank), Two integrated weapons of your choice
A first-rate manufacturer of specialist chrome. Proprietary DNI adapters allow unusual body plans without undue neural overhead. Branching fractal manipulators and multilateral symmetry is common. Daeyi sleeves excel in microgravity environments.
4-axis symmetry and fractal manipulators. Despite the unwieldy appearance, moves surprisingly quickly on foot). Even faster in microgravity.
Strength: 50 (fixed)
Armor: 55 (fixed, doesn't stack)
Abilities: Integrated IR, Integrated Bodycam, Integrated Mag Boots, Integrated Thruster Pack, Internal oxygen for brain (lasts 48 hours per tank), 2 integrated toolkits of your choice, climbs as fast as it walks, fractal disassembly arms (3d10).
How best to handle skills in Mothership and in other OSR systems is a recurring discussion. Folks have addressed this in the context of level-less play, debt for skills, tweaks to the details of the skill table, etc. Mostly, those approaches have been satisfactory when I've used them at my table. I've noticed a few issues, however.
Some skills are keyed into concrete mechanical benefits and in campaign play are borderline mandatory. Others are essential to certain character backgrounds but don't necessarily come up that often (zero-g is the worst offender), knowledge type skills can slow down investigations and some, like mathematics or hyperspace may only come up once or twice in a campaign, and finally the scientist skills don't always fit together logically and, without house rules, don't adequately reflect a skilled professional. The most obvious example is that in default MoSh a character playing a doctor will never get the surgery skill at the start of the game. Many of these issues can be (and no doubt will be) addressed in the boxed set without making any radical changes to the skill system.
The approach I propose is a bit more radical and a lot more minimalistic. First, it relies on the fairly orthodox OSR assumption that most in-game problem solving shouldn't depend on what you have on your character sheet. MoSh actually does a pretty good job at this insofar as the skill list mostly capture things outside of the realm of player common sense but I'm going even further. Players coming from DnD or other games with very concrete skill lists will probably have a harder time.
The core assumption is simple: your character has knowledge and skills consistent with their class and background. When your character's background would justifiably give them a substantial advantage, they make an appropriate ability check with advantage. Sometimes having applicable background is a prerequisite to rolling in the first place: in that case, they don't roll with advantage.
In practice, there's a little more to it than that:
- The benefit of rolling with advantage is larger than a regular skill bonus (about +20%); accordingly, skills should be narrower. Someone with a doctorate degree in xenobiology will be screwed when they're up against plants or viruses.
- When your character's background would give them relevant knowledge about something, just tell them what they know without rolling. I do this even when using the regular MoSh skill system and it makes the scientists feel a lot better about themselves.
- Marines start with proficiency in automatic weapons. Characters who roll a relevant background also have proficiency in automatic weapons. Everyone else gains proficiency by surviving an adventure in which they used an automatic weapon and taking an appropriate amount of time to train. If you're playing a campaign where you don't expect characters to take firearms skills you can make things a little more difficult by requiring more survived missions or requiring a character to pass a fear save in addition to spending their downtime training.
- Nobody gets the skill bonuses to attack. Tough shit. At my own table, there are better weapons, cybernetics, and Meat solutions to shooting better; these provide between +5% and +20%. If you don't provide these options, you might find that certain high INSTINCT enemies are tougher. I don't view that as a bad thing.
- Nobody gets miscellaneous skill perks from stuff like Tactics and Command (I find these really obnoxious and don't miss them at all).
But wait! You haven't told me how you get skills!
The Last War is over. The alliance of Rim megacorps you once served was soundly defeated by the Exile States. One more little nail in the coffin of corporate tyranny; a small step in the right direction. That's cold comfort to you. You were rebuilt for war and cut loose as your employers disintegrated. The corps promised you your body back when you enlisted but once the orbital strikes and rolling blackouts started, you know that the freezers stopped. You don't have a plan. But you've got a combat sleeve, a well-used weapon, and nothing to lose.
WHO WERE YOU BEFORE THE LAST WAR? [1d10 Backgrounds]
- Corporate security; a mall cop with a gun
- A colonial kindergarten teacher; from a company town
- A teenage delinquent; desperate to get off-word
- An indentured white collar employee; enlisted to escape your contract
- A fast food worker; looking to make something of yourself
- The rebellious child of an executive; reality caught up quick
- A rural colonist; war sounded better than desperate rural poverty
- An organized criminal; the corps are the biggest gangs there are, after all
- A career soldier; you thought a combat sleeve was a logical career move
- You had a technical background and the corps needed a specialist; here you are
WHAT DO YOU HAVE LEFT [1d10 Loadouts]
- Horizon Werewolf Sleeve, Combat Space Suit (plate carrier empty, several holes), Breaching Charges 3x, Compressed Gas Knife, decent cookware and a collection of real spices, a wedding band that doesn't fit on your clawed fingers
- Horizon Werewolf Sleeve, Pain Pills 6x, Laser Cutter Power Cell 2x, Electronics Kit, a poorly maintained cybernetic arm, a stolen tradesman's van, tapecomp and several idol pop tapes a photo of your kids
- Horizon Werewolf Sleeve, Surgical Kit, Battledress, Revolver (no bullets), an emergency medicine skillslick (and slicksocket), Nerve Gas Grenade 1x (Werewolves are immune), carjacking tools, Knives 6x
- Horizon Werewolf Sleeve, Crowbar, Federova-Turner 'Onika' Deck, Flares 6x, a copy of Gideon's Bible, an Occupational Health and Safety Certificate
- Horizon Werewolf Sleeve, Pulse Rifle 2x, MREs (for combat sleeves) 28x, a sleeve tattoo
- Daeyi Apex Sleeve, Concussion Grenade Launcher, Concussion Grenades 6x, monofilament wire, a photo of your old self (glass smashed), responsibility for a human child
- Daeyi Apex Sleeve, Integrated Smart Rifle, robot repair kit, a wedding band that doesn't fit on one of your many fractal manipulators, vacation vouchers (never used)
- Consolidated Robotics Titan Sleeve, Integrated Flamethrower, your old body's right hand in an acrylic block, a violin and case (too small for you to play easily)
- Horizon Reaper Sleeve, Goggles, Stimpack 6x, formal attire (silk)
- Infiltrator Combat Android, DVK 'Micro-80X' Wristcomp, one disguise kit (new face and body), Scalpel 2x
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